An exciting doc about one of the most creative bands you probably don't know. Director Edgar Wright will change all that for you.
The Sparks Brothers
“How can a band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and overlooked all at the same time?” Edgar Wright (director)
Although the cult art-pop band Sparks has been playing its idiosyncratic music for fifty years, you may never have heard about the two brothers or their music. Be prepared to remember them forever after seeing Edgar Wright’s loving and comprehensive documentary covering their zany years of performance.
The two boys, Ron and Russ Mael, were born in California with the creative influence of the Beach Boys but a definite affinity for Brit bad boys like the Beatles and The Stones and touches of Queen. In fact, Ron and Russell Mael may have been a major influence on British synthpop.
Wright skillfully shows their emerging theatrics of Ron’s culturally-sharp lyrics and Russell’s stagey falsetto gyrations evocative of Mick and Freddie. They have their career careening from high on the charts to being absent from them, but never stopping the two from inventing themselves over and over again.
If you don’t believe me, listen to persuasive talking heads who know what they’re talking about, like Duran Duran, Weird Al Yankovic, Patton Oswalt, Sonic Youth, et al. However, just listen to their sometimes-inscrutable lyrics and watch Russell gyrate around the implacable Ron, and you will experience music in all its forms, wild and expressive.
As Ringo was alleged to say while watching Top of the Pops, “Marc Bolan is on the tele playing a song with Adolph Hitler” (Ron wore a Hitler-like stache much of the time). In the course of their half century, they went from glam-rock to orchestral art-pop to their take on Sgt Pepper and everything in between. It’s exhausting just to try to catalogue their phases.
During this mayhem, they never really caught on in America and regularly turned off their Brit fans with their inscrutable lyrics and boundary-pushing intimidations. Career suicide was always a possibility.
Right up to today with writing music for Annette, a Leos Carax musical, Sparks is still incendiary and provocative, inscrutable but eminently watchable. As is this love song to them, sure to capture your imagination and heart.
The Sparks Brothers
Director: Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver)
Cast: Ron Mael, Russell Mael
Run Time: 2h 15m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com